Lai See

Rigid town planner annoys objectors at PLA site hearing

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 November, 2013, 2:36am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 November, 2013, 11:10am

Observers of yesterday's meeting of the Town Planning Board to hear the People's Liberation Army waterfront site issue were mystified by the rigid attitude of board chairman Thomas Chow Tat-ming.

Such is the interest in this matter that the government had allocated something like 18 sessions to hear the thousands of members of the public, who had indicated they wanted to state their views at the board.

The matter concerns the arrangement before the 1997 handover to provide land 150 metres long and 20 metres deep for use by PLA warships for social or ceremonial visits in front of the Prince of Wales Building in Central.

However, instead of the expected thousands of people, there were precisely eight. There was one speaker in favour of allowing the PLA to have control over the controversial site and seven against.

Nevertheless, the planning board had let it be known that in view of the large number of people who had said they wanted to speak at the hearing, they would only be allowed 10 minutes each. Chow reminded the hearing of this yesterday. When it was pointed out to him that the time limit was unnecessary since there were only eight people present, Chow persisted with his ruling, saying it was only fair that everybody got the same amount of time.

That is questionable, but if the others haven't bothered to turn up, then it is ludicrous. So the person in favour spoke for 10 minutes, then legislator Kenneth Chan Ka-lok was granted 20 minutes since he was speaking on behalf of himself and another party, before being shut down by Chow. At this point, Chan and the others walked out in protest.

It's unclear what the board did with the time on its hands for the rest of the day. If nobody else turns up in the remaining 17 sessions, the board is going to look silly for only allowing the public 30 minutes in total to air their views. The government has said the PLA has given an as-yet-unseen undertaking that the public can use the area when no vessel is in town. But people who have studied the law relating to this agreement see little chance of that happening once the land is handed over to the PLA.


So farewell then, Barry

Barry Grindrod, the chief executive of aviation magazine Orient Aviation, recently stepped down after the publication he founded celebrated its 20th anniversary. It's been no mean achievement for a journalist whose work once graced the pages of our own illustrious organ.

The past 20 years has charted the rise of the Asia-Pacific aviation industry, but it has also been a period in which significant publications have closed and others struggled. Orient Aviation is well regarded in the industry.

Mere survival had been an achievement, Grindrod told Lai See, and practically every issue had had its challenges.

The 20th-year edition of the magazine has a piece by Tony Tyler, the director general and chief executive of the International Air Transport Association and former chief executive of Cathay Pacific Airways. "The establishment of Orient Aviation in 1993 was a confirmation of one of the most remarkable developments in aviation - the expansion of commercial aviation across Asia." There then follows a long piece on the development of aviation in Asia over the past 20 years along with the personalities that have been part of that growth.

Grindrod is fulsome in his thanks to his two lieutenants who have been with the publication for most of its life, publisher and editor-in-chief Christine McGee and chief correspondent Tom Ballantyne.

The magazine started as a quarterly and was then published every two months before reaching 10 editions a year. Ten years ago, it started a Chinese-language edition. It has run a number of highly regarded "Greener Skies" conferences. Early next year, it kicks off a new conference dealing with aviation and social media.

Grindrod believes the success of the magazine has largely been due to a preparedness to tell the story "warts and all". It has been an attitude that has at times caused the magazine difficulties in some quarters, but he feels it has been worth it.

After his first four weeks of retirement, Grindrod, even at the ripe old age of 67, says kicking the work habit is harder than he thought. He has a few ideas as to what he might do next but as ever, he is keeping his cards close to his chest.


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